M. M. Rose School is a historic school building on the east side of Detroit. There is some confusion about what the M. M. stands for: It is alternatively given as Mary Martha Rose in an 1898 Detroit Free Press article, and then Melissa Margaret Rose in a 1961 essay. School records, and even accounts given by people who knew her simply refer to her as "Miss M. M. Rose."
Details about her early life are similarly unclear: Miss Rose was born in Grosse Pointe in 1827 or 1833. She began teaching in district schools around Detroit in 1858, and was appointed to Bishop School in 1860. After teaching in several other Detroit Public Schools, she became the first woman principal in the district in 1871, taking leadership of Everett School. Everett was attended by mostly black students, and as was common at the time, received less support from the district. Rose worked hard to break down racial barriers at the school, detailed in a sketch of her life written by a fellow principal in 1898:
"...a greater colored enrollment was found in the Everett than any other district. Miss Rose found an unenviable task, not in difficulties with this race, but in the prejudices that had so strong a hold even on the hearts of those who had helped to free it. Although re-christened the Everett, it continued... to be regarded with the old disfavor. Many long and hot disputes between the Superintendent, Principal and parents occurred on the questions of transfers, Miss Rose claiming that its social standard could and should be elevated by refusing permits to neighboring and older public schools. This was her all engrossing ambition. To make the building attractive and the institution popular she left no effort untried. Pictures were bought and framed, the rostrum then in use, was carpeted (rarely with the Board's assistance). The prejudice gradually wore off as the neighborhood improved. She also favored an attractive, home-like schoolroom, because, as she said 'The best hours of my life are spent in it.'"
After 30 years of education and in declining health, Miss Rose retired in 1889, and passed away in 1892.
M. M. Rose School can trace its roots to the early days of the city. The first Rose School was built in 1886 on Van Dyke Avenue in what was then part of Hamtramck Township. The rural single room school was annexed into the city of Detroit in 1892, and became a Detroit Public School. Due to severe overcrowding - the school only sat 48 students - plans for a new 12-room school were drawn up in 1896, but construction was delayed due to cost overruns. In May of 1897 bids for a new school were put out again, but budget cuts put the project on hold. Finally in June work started on the first floor and six classrooms of the school, with the second floor to be added later. The new Rose School opened on January 10th, 1898, though construction was only partially finished. The old school was closed and abandoned. Formal dedication of the school took place on February 18th, with speeches by the mayor and school officials. The second floor was finished in November of 1898.
For much of its early years Rose School was overcrowded. By 1905 there were 640 students in a school designed for 570 students. Land was purchased for an addition to the school in 1923, but enrollment began to decline and the land was used for a playground instead. The school remained underused until the population boom during the Second World War. The school was renovated extensively in 1960.
The later years of M. M. Rose School are less clear. A new Rose School was built in 1979 several blocks away from the old, and opened in 1980. Old Rose closed that year and was sold. Reader N writes that "Perhaps 35 years ago the old Rose Elementary School on Van Dyke, between Gratiot and I94, was closed and a replacement (now also closed) was built just to the west of Kettering HS. The old Rose building was sold by DPS to a private Black Muslim School (something like Sister Clara X School, IIRC). In short order they abandoned it to the elements."
M. M. Rose is now the oldest remaining public school building in the city, though it has deteriorated significantly. The wood frame roof has started to cave in, along with the upper floors.